An aerial census of the Aransas NWR and surrounding areas made 28 March, 2002 estimated the number of whooping cranes present at 151 adults + 14 chicks = 165. The size of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population in spring, 2002 is estimated at 174, with a maximum of nine cranes having started the migration.
Recap of cranes observed: (165 )
Refuge Lamar San Jose Matagorda Welder Flats Indianola Total
38+5 6+1 31+2 54+5b 20+1 2+0 151 + 14 = 165
Remarks: Census conditions were variable throughout the day with fog over the barrier islands until late in the day. All areas were covered.
It is estimated that 4 adult pairs (8 cranes) have started the migration since the last flight on March 21. The four pairs are all from refuge territories (Mustang Slough, Middle Sundown Bay, Lobstick, and North Dunham Point). A single whooping crane confirmed March 20 on the Platte River in Nebraska is still there. On San Jose Island, the crane with an injured left wing was located as a single about 1 3/8th miles from it was seen as a duo last week. A total of 31 suabadults were found on today’s flight.
Unusual Locations: The two "Indianola" cranes were again located in salt marsh on the Alcoa property next to the Myrtle Foster Whitmire Unit of the Aransas NWR west of the town of Indianola. The South Dunham Point was on the Big Tree Marsh where they were agressively displaced from a "freshwater" lake. A group of six refuge subadults was located between Ayres and Rattlesnake Islands.
Habitat: Tides have risen with oyster reefs in the bays partially covered and more than half of the mud flats on San Jose covered with water. The cranes are continuing to feed on crabs. On today’s flight, five cranes were observed flying to freshwater to drink. Salinities have increased to approximately 20 to 21 ppt in the bays and marshes. Crab counts March 25-26 indicated some blue crabs still available for the cranes.